The Difference between Home Birth and Birth Centers & What to Expect

Birth Center

Delivering a child is one of the most important and powerful moments in a woman’s life. It is also quite unpredictable. There is no definitive way to predict how a child is going to enter the world because a lot of that is up to a woman’s body and the baby. Whilst this can be both an exciting and daunting prospect, it’s important to remember that some elements of birth are absolutely in your control. One of these is your birth setting. 

Hospital births create a sterile and unnatural environment for the birthing woman. Bright lights, doctors in scrubs and surgical equipment on display can be enough to create fear and bewilderment. For those seeking a more comfortable and intimate experience, many (about 60,000 annually) turn to birthing centers or home births. The comfort of your own home can help create a pleasant atmosphere for birth to take place. While it might not have crossed your mind to birth away from a hospital, the options are there for you to explore with your healthcare professional.

What is a Birthing Center?

The offerings available at birthing centers are diverse. Some are attached to hospitals, which allow for smoother transfers if medical intervention is necessary. Some are standalone buildings. If the birthing center is free standing, they often have accommodations for quick transfer to a hospital. Additionally, birthing centers have access to medical supplies like nitrous oxide for pain, IV lines, oxygen, etc. Your options for birthing location may be directed by what’s available to you in your community and the birth plan you draw up.

Atmosphere and Comfort

Birth centers are decorated to evoke a peaceful atmosphere with soft lighting, jetted tubs, showers, and other amenities for the family to use. They also have less strict rules than hospitals. For example, hospitals typically do not allow mothers to get out of bed until after delivery; however, birthing centers often encourage walking around or getting into a whole variety of positions which allow for an easier delivery. The afterbirth process is also different in a birthing center than in a hospital. In a birthing center, you tend to be given more time to recover and bond with your baby as there is typically less stress on the facility and staff.


Most insurance plans offer coverage for birthing centers. It can be an excellent way to save some money while also having a comfortable delivery experience. Unfortunately, there are limitations to coverage of birth centers, often being that they are covered but not in-network, so the total cost may be more. A home birth, on the other hand, may be more expensive initially because insurance coverage is limited and costs may be out of pocket, which means that paying a midwife and preparation are the mother’s responsibility. Still, both of these options tend to be less expensive than a hospital birth in the end, considering overnight stays and intervention usually involved. Check with your insurance to find out if you’re covered.

What Is A Home Birth?

Home births are an excellent option for those seeking an even more intimate setting for delivery. Home births involve you staying in the comforts of your own home for the duration of your labor and delivery. About one percent of births take place at home. That being said, home births are on the rise and for good reason. 


While birthing centers may seem like the more comfortable option, they do still have some less than ideal aspects. A home birth offers the most flexibility and comfort for the mother. Everything a mother might want for personal comfort is typically at their home. With a home birth, there doesn’t need to be any concern about forgetting pajamas at home or having uncomfortable contractions in a car while driving to a birthing center. 


Many birthing centers enforce time limits for how long a mother can spend at the facility. With a home birth, the need to leave is eliminated—because you’re home! More time is spent with the child and less worrying about the facility or staff. A mother’s doula or midwife is still accessible and will be present during the labor but can leave when the mother is ready. Additionally, a home birth can allow for more friends or family to be present, if you so desire. 


For obvious reasons, birthing centers need to limit the amount of people who are able to come in and out of a delivery room. This might mean only the mother’s partner is allowed to stay during labor. With a home birth, that restriction is nonexistent. A mother can choose who to have with her at her birth. This might include her  parents, other children, pets, or friends in addition to her midwife or doula. That means if she wants more people around to welcome the baby into the world, she can have precisely that. 

There are no wrong or right answers when it comes to birth choice. As long as the pregnancy is low risk, there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t choose the option she finds the most comfortable. For more information about home births, birthing centers, and your options, click here.


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